Australian held on return from fighting ISIS

2015-04-05 12:39
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Sydney - A former unionist and Australian political figure, Matthew Gardiner, has been detained at Darwin airport after returning from the Middle East where he is believed to have been fighting against the Islamic State group, a report says.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said it understood that Gardiner had been stopped by customs officials early on Sunday after flying in to the northern Australian city via Sweden and Singapore.

The Australian Federal Police confirmed that its officers "spoke to a Darwin man today following his return to Australia", but did not name the traveller.

"Enquiries relating to his activities while overseas are ongoing and as such it is not appropriate to comment further at this time," a police spokesperson said.

Punishable on return

Gardiner, a former trade unionist and ex-president of the Northern Territory branch of the opposition Labour Party, reportedly left Australia early this year to join a Kurdish militia fighting ISIS.

Australia is involved in the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and last year passed a law criminalising travel to terror hotspots in an measure designed to stop jihadists from going to Iraq and Syria to fight.

But fighting for either side in the conflict in Syria and Iraq is understood to be punishable on return to Australia.

"Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they fight in other countries," the department of foreign affairs says on its travel warning for Iraq.

Gardiner reportedly served as an Australian Army combat engineer in Somalia in the 1990s, but has since married and has three children.

Expressed relief

He was removed as the Northern Territory chief of the Labour Party and suspended from the organisation after the news he had travelled to the Middle East emerged, the ABC said.

Federal Labour leader Bill Shorten expressed relief on Sunday that Gardiner was "back home safe and sound".

"But I'm concerned anyone thinks they should be getting involved in these foreign conflicts, no matter what their intentions," he said, the ABC reported.

Read more on:    australia  |  isis

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